Olympia nostalgia: 17 wonderful memories (and why Christmas won’t be half as fun this year…)

  • In normal circumstances, right about now herds of horsey folk would be navigating the district line towards Olympia and we’d all be enjoying a bumper week of equestrian action from the London International Horse Show at the magical Grand Hall in the heart of the capital.

    Sadly, this is no normal year and, when Olympia announced the cancellation of the show in September, we all realised that the run-up to Christmas would feel very, very different this time around.

    But do not dismay, all is not lost, as H&H is here to help with the next best thing — a journey back to Olympias past! We’ve had a nostalgic dip into the H&H vaults to bring you just a few of our favourite Olympia memories — let us know your best moments, too…

    1. The five-star international showjumping classes attract some of the world’s leading horses and riders — but they don’t come better than the great John Whitaker and Milton (pictured above), competing in London in 1989.

    2. The Mini Stakes for the smallest competitors over the coloured fences is always fast and furious and Millie Lawson proved a very worthy winner in 2019 riding Priestwood Hardy ± she rode her lap of honour like an absolute pro.

    3. History was made in 2014 when Charlotte Dujardin broke her second world record at Olympia when securing freestyle victory with the legendary Valegro. The pair bettered their previous record of 93.975% when the judges awarded a stunning 94.3% in front of a buzzing crowd.

    4. Another star from days gone by at Olympia is David Broome, competing here on his great horse Philco.

    5. Nothing beats the thrill of the Shetland Pony Grand National at Olympia, where hairier versions of Frankel and Kauto Star battle it out under the wannabe Ruby Walshes and Bryony Frosts. Blink and you’ll miss them.

    6. The displays in the Grand Hall are always enthralling — here the mounted branch of the Metropolitan Police put on a red-hot show.

    7. Great Britain’s native ponies have traditionally enjoyed the chance to take centre stage at Olympia and this is an impressive line-up of the Mountain & Moorlands from 1985.

    8. One of Olympia’s highlights is the sell-out puissance, where the big red wall towers higher and higher as the evening progresses. It holds no fear for Guy Williams, however, soaring sky high with Mr Blue Sky UK in 2018.

    9. The fancy dress competition is one of the most-missed aspects of the show, from a time when riders were allowed to let their hair down (if they had any…) and dress up in the most appropriate (or inappropriate) outfits for an evening of brilliant entertainment. John Whitaker (pictured below) was invariably at the front of the queue!

    10. No Olympia is complete without a visit from the main man himself, Santa Claus. The nightly Christmas finale always includes a rousing rendition of The First Noel and provides a magical spectacle for young and old.

    11. Christmas decorations play an integral part of the Olympia experience and stables can be seen festooned with tinsel — as can many horses and ponies. Competitors in the Mini Major class often take it to the next level and in 2009, young Emily Alice Pearce and Justalk Atlanta look a festive picture.

    12. Of course, there is always time to enjoy a spot of retail therapy, too — lunge whips and massive cuddly horses are some of the most frequently seen purchases being lugged back to seats.

    13.  Where else can you get up close to your horsey heroes? Harvey Smith thrilled the crowds in 1985 riding Sanyo Cadnica.

    14. Don’t try this at home! But Lorenzo is one of the all-time favourite acts to appear at Olympia.

    15. The atmosphere at Olympia is like no other — the crowds are always impeccably dressed, too.

    16. The Santa hat theme continues into the ring, where Katie Bradburne and Runaway Dolly embrace the festive spirit in the 2018 Mini Major.

    17. And finally… the high jump is no longer part of the Olympia schedule, but in 1978 crowds were treated to the heart-stopping spectacle of Nick Skelton and Lastic smashing the British record when clearing 2.32m.

    All we can say is roll on Olympia 2021…! But in the meantime, don’t miss all the action from this year’s Olympia online from 6pm on Wednesday 16 December, concluding with the Ultimate Equestrian Christmas Party at 6pm on Sunday 20 December.

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